I've been to North Wales to meet up with a group of fellow writers. We call ourselves the novelistas. We just love to write, and some of us make a living from it.
While we were waiting for our lunch to arrive, we shared what is going on in our writing lives. Valerie-Ann Baglietto, and Louise Marley (pictured) have both put books out in kindle format this month. Louise Marley's is called Breathless.
And Valerie-Ann's is called Once Upon A Winter. It is a kind of modern fairy tale, and I can't wait to read it.
Lots of other exciting news on the writing front from June Francis, who gave me a copy of her new book, "The Pawnbroker's Daughter", a saga set in Liverpool, and Anne Bennet, whose latest book, out in the New Year, is called "If you were the only girl in the World". I think her book is going to do well. The title certainly has a dramatic effect on us. Whenever she starts talking about it, we tend to break out into song...and she reported that it has the same effect on others, too!
A raffle followed, (I got socks!) and then a bit of a magical mystery tour. This was not a part of the organized event, but down to the fact I have no sense of direction. The meal was held in a different venue from our usual haunt, you see, because the poor old Bod Erw was flooded during the recent storms, and is still not open for business. And it being Wales, the roads are narrow and windy. I swear at one point I was going round in ever-decreasing circles, but eventually, the A55 appeared on the horizon.
And it was back to real life. Must find the blu-tack, and get my first batch of Christmas cards up on display...
Last meeting of the North Wales Novelistas, where we discussed the running of our new blog. You can now find out all about us here.
Yesterday I got the train down to London for the annual Mills & Boon Author lunch, which was held in the appropriately named (for me) Regency room of the Charing Cross Hotel.
Each of us found a goody bag at our place setting, containing a mini bottle of champagne, pink truffles, tea light, and very useful notebook and pen.
I was sitting on the same table as Lynne Graham, one of my favourite writers for the Modern/Presents line. But I was too star struck to speak to her! Let alone take a photo. And anyway, she was directly opposite me, concealed behind the waterjugs and centre piece, and I would have felt like a papparazzi leaping out to snap her...though I wasn't so shy with my other table-buddies...
pictured to the left are those sitting on my left...Dianne Moggy, from Harlequin HQ, who spoke to us after the meal about future developments...Sarah Morgan, who won a Rita this year, and gave the wittiest acceptance speech I have ever heard...and Nicola Cornick, fellow Historical writer.
On my right, I was next to Mary Nichols, who also writes Historicals, one of the writers for the Medical line, whose mane I've forgotten (if anyone knows it, please let me know and I will post it here!), and Sharon Kendrick, who writes for the Modern/Presents line, and who was one of the team who organized the event.
There was time for socializing after the meal, and I was pleased to finally meet Barbara Monajem in the flesh, after being cyber pals on the historical authors loop for some time. Pictured here with Carol Townend, who is already a real friend, and who writes the most amazing stories set in Medieval Europe.
After a short interval (many of us retreated to the bar for a fortifying pot of tea) we reconvened in the Betjeman Suite for a champagne reception hosted by Mills and Boon. Several editors, among them my own, Sally Williamson, are moving on to new jobs, or going on maternity leave, and were presented with flowers.
And my facebook friend, and fellow ballroom dance enthusiast, Kate Hardy, was awarded a commemorative pin for publishing her 50th book for Mills & Boon. I met and chatted with lots of other authors, but for some reason, not many of my pictures came out in focus. It had absolutely nothing to do with the amount of champagne consumed. Not at all...
From 6th - 9th September, many National Trust Properties throughout the United Kingdom are free to visit!
I wish I'd known that last weekend, when I travelled down to Wrexham, where Erdigg is situated.
I arrived before the house itself actually opened, so made straight for the tearoom. That's one of my favourite things about visiting National Trust properties -they always seem to have the most fabulous tearooms! Anyway, after fortifying myself with a pot of tea and a home-made scone, I had a wander round the outbuildings.
In the stable yard, I came across this carriage. There was nobody about to tell me I shouldn't...so I climbed in to see what it would have been like to be a grand lady, going for a drive in one.
The seat was surprisingly comfortable, although it might be a different sensation when the carriage is being bounced across the cobbles. On certain days, you can take a carriage drive round parts of the estate. But there were no horses or grooms around when I was there.
I did take a peek into the tack room, however:
And then went for a stroll round the grounds. The gardens are absolutely beautiful. I took so many photos, it's hard to choose which one to put up here, but in the end I've chosen one of the rear of the house from the end of the "canal" - which is actually an enormous pond, stocked with fish which come up to look at you (hoping you are going to feed them, I expect)
By this time I needed feeding myself, so went back to the tearoom for a spot of lunch.
Duly fortified by vegetable soup and home-made bread, I started on a tour of the house. It's a fascinating house, staffed with the friendliest, most helpful people. If they didn't know the answer to any of my questions, they had folders full of information they could consult.
But I think what I found most interesting about the place was the family that lived there, the Yorke's. The first York to live there had portraits painted of many of his staff, and wrote short poems to commemorate their lives. They are still hanging in the kitchens, (with facsimilies of the poems to hand, because the writing on the original portraits is now quite hard to decipher.)
Then it was back to the tearoom for a glass of orange squash and a slice of the most deliciously moist carrot cake I've ever had, before it was time to get back on the road, and home.
The grounds and teashop open from 11 - 5.30 this weekend. The house doesn't usually open til 12.30, but if you are one of the first in the queue to get in the grounds, you can ask for a ticket for a guided tour of the house, which starts at 12.00. Because many of the rooms are quite small, they limit the number. But if you miss the tour, the staff in each room are ready to answer any questions you might have, anyway.
And here I make apologies for letting my news page lapse over the summer vacation. Not only have I been travelling, but I've also been working on a new design for this website. My techy person (is that how you spell it?) keeps assuring me there is hardly anything left to do before he can launch it...
But he's been saying that since the middle of August!!
I'm really excited about jetting off to the Romance Writers of America annual conference at Anaheim next week. There will be all sorts of workshops, and seminars, as well as various social events hosted by my publishers, Harlequin.
I will be attending two book signing events, too. One is the Literacy event, on the Wednesday afternoon. This is an annual event which raises funds to support libraries and literacy programmes. Publishers provide the books, and authors forego royalties.
This year there will be over 400 authors taking part, in the from 5 - 8pm in the Orange County Ballroom in the Anaheim Convention Centre.
I will be at table 107, in the company of:
Jami Alden, who writes romantic suspense,
Vivian Arend, who writes "lighthearted paranormal" romance
Anne Kemp, who describes herself as a writer/blogstress
Christine Rimmer , USA Today bestselling Harlequin author, and
Patricia Wright...sorry, Patricia, I couldn't find anything out about you online...but I'm sure by the end of the afternoon we'll be great friends!
At least one of us will be wearing a cowboy hat, and one other will be signing with a quill pen...
Yesterday I had my very first book launch party!
Since the Novelistas had also decided to make this our summer party, it of course threw it down with rain. Driving over the mountains to Wales was a bit of a white-knuckle ride. At one point I could only see where I was going by following the tail lights of the lorry in front.
But anyway, safely arrived, and with my hairdo only slightly flattened by trip from car to pub, I unloaded the cake...
...and the goody bags...
It wasn't easy to pick novelties to fill them. Most of the Novelistas, when making up gift bags for their own launches, choose something to go with the theme of the book. For "Eden's Garden" by Juliet Greenwood, for example, we got bulbs for our gardens. For "Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues" by Trisha Ashely, we got wedding favours, and chocolate. My book is set during the Regency era. My hero is a wounded ex-soldier, and the heroine a society beauty. The only recurring theme in the story is...well, bedroom windows.
But since the novelistas are all keen writers, I added tiny handbag sized notebooks, pens, and...paper fans! No regency lady would be without one. Apparently the pose I adopted for the picture above means, "Follow me."
Thanks to "Cakes by Kerry" for supplying the cake...which she based on a scene from the story where the hero climbs into the heroine's bedroom window...
...and all the Novelistas for turning out in spite of the deluge!
Sorry -no pics of that great bunch of ladies. For once I was in front of the camera, not behind it. But next time I go out, I will take plenty of photos to make up for it.
See you soon!
I've been taking part in the Harlequin Historical authors summer beach bag giveaway.
Thanks to all of you who got in touch to tell me your dream holiday destination. I've really enjoyed reading all the entries.
The most popular dream holiday destination was Scotland. Whether it was the draw of the rugged highlands, lochs, the possibility of sampling the whisky, or maybe even catching a glimpse of Sean Connery in a kilt, it was the place the most of you wanted to visit.
A close second came Australia. After that, it was Ireland, and a smattering of European countries, including France, Germany and various regions or cities in Italy.
Cruises were also a popular dream holiday, and a couple of you were adventurous enough to say you'd enjoy an African safari.
Hawaii and tropical islands were also popular. And several of you said you'd just enjoy anywhere quiet and peaceful, be it a mountain, lake, or beach (with a good book to read, of course!)
Several of you also had guesses about what my dream holiday destination would be, if you didn't think it would be the same as yours.
A couple of you said you could see me visiting castles. Well, since I'm lucky enough to live in the UK, I do visit castles whenever I can. So you were close...but not the winner!
Some of you suggested I might like to go back in time to the regency era...well, I pretty much do that all day long. I "live" with my heroes and heroines as I help them find their happy ever afters, already. So that's not my "dream" destination either.
I actually have dressed up in regency costume, as one of you suggested, and yes, it was an awesome day, and lots of fun...but I've done that. My dream is something I've not accomplished yet - something I've yet to do.
Thanks, by the way, to the lady who suggested I would enjoy ski-ing in the Alps. I feel so flattered you think I could be that sporty!! Though I would enjoy the spectacular scenery, and the apres-ski drinks of hot chocolate and gluhwein, and maybe having a go at sliding downhill on some little planks might be fun, too...hmm...you've given me something to think about!
Several of you suggested cruises. I actually did take a Mediterranean cruise some years ago, and it was the best holiday I've ever had.
Three of you suggested an Alaskan cruise would be your own dream vacation. But only one of you mentioned the magic words...."Northern Lights."
I would love to witness this spectacular night-time display. It has been a dream of mine for some time, but every year, something else crops up, and I've yet to book my ticket and go.
So well done the lady who also wants to see the Northern Lights. I hope you get to see them. And in the meantime, I'm sending you the prize for today.
Everyone who contacted me will have their names put forward for the grand prize draw at the end of the month. So if you haven't won today - good luck in the final draw!
I've just received delivery of the Italian translation of Captain Corcoran's Hoyden Bride.
In some ways, the cover is not that romantic...but I absolutely love it, because it depicts a scene from the story. As soon as I picked up the book, I could see that the artist had read the story, and drawn my heroine just as he imagined her...
Don't forget the summer beach bag giveaway is still running. Today's host is Kate Welsh. Visit her website for a chance to win some of her books as well as bath products for your beach bag. Even if you are not a winner today, your name will still go into the grand prize draw, to be held at the end of the month, for a kindle e-reader.
I've just spent an hour standing in the rain, waiting for the olympic torch to go by. While I was waiting, I saw the Queen...
(in effigy), some very patriotic motorcycle cops...
(did you spot the Union Jack?), an olympic car...
a whole convoy of olympic buses...
a rather bewildered-looking athlete (I assume he was an athlete; he was wearing a track suit)
before finally...yes, here it comes...
and, well, I'm not sure whether it was because it was raining, or if she is an olympic sprinter, but before I could snap her again...
there she goes....
I will be taking part in a promotion with other Harlequin Historical authors, starting June 4th. As vacation season approaches, for most of us excitement mounts as that long-awaited time at the beach (or mountains or city or lounging at home in the garden) approaches. To add to your anticipation, some Harlequin Historical authors are offering a bevy of prizes to fill your beach bag (or suitcase or garden coffee table) with fun for that special time.
Check the calendar below for the days featured authors are offering something to "pack" as you prepare for your trip: soothing lotions, oils and lip balms, sparkly nail varnish, and (of course!) books. In your countdown to the holidays "cross off" that day by visiting the author's website/blog/Facebook page and follow the instructions for a chance to win her addition to your "beach bag".
On the 18th, I am offering a selection of manicure items, some Annie Burrows themed stationery, and a copy of my book, "Captain Corcoran's Hoyden Bride"
At the end of the month, there will be a grand prize draw for a bonus win - a kindle!
I got a parcel this week, containing my author copies of my next book, which is due out in July, "An Escapade and an Engagement."
The story is about Lady Jayne Chilcott, cousin to the heroine of "Captain Corcoran's Hoyden Bride", and coincidentally, I've just discovered a fab review of "Captain Corcoran" on the Rakehell blogsite:
"...I'm glad I read it because I adored this book! From the moment our very scarred hero meets our emotionally abused heroine I couldn't stop turning pages and spent a sleepless night finishing it...Bottom Line A must read for Regency fans who like their heroes scarred and their stories tightly paced."
For full review, go to Rakehell
Last Friday I went to North Wales to meet up with some fellow-writers, and to celebrate the launch of "Far From Home" by Anne Bennett. I just love these days out...I always come back with my batteries re-charged...not to mention the owner of a lovely new book to read!
Anne made a simnel cake to share with us for dessert, and her husband Dennis read an extract from her book while we were having coffee.
That meant, of course, that I had to sit down and read her book once I got home...to see what was going to happen next. If you like Anne's books, this one won't disappoint. It has a meticulously researched and detailed background, though as a romance fan, I was a bit more interested in the three girls who have to find out about love and loss during the second world war.
This morning I received another parcel of books...this time containing copies of The Viscount and the Virgin (my contribution to the Silk and Scandal series) translated into Estonian.
It looks very similar to the US version...
I had a lovely email from my editor last Friday to say she has approved my 10th full length story. I told you about it last month.
I told you a bit about it last month...it involves three hankies! Anyway, it now has a title. It is called "Never Trust a Rake."
And then today I received copies of "The Viscount and the Virgin" translated into Lithuanian. It's a beautiful cover to add to my cover gallery.
So much has happened since I last posted any news here...
I have been busy creating a new story. I can tell you that it is... well, not exactly a three-hanky tale, but definitely a tale of three hankies. And a rake who gets rescued by a distressed damsel (instead of a hero rescuing a damsel in distress) Anyway, yesterday I finally sent off a revised version to my editor, who has been really enthusiastic about this story.
Then, as a reward for working so hard, I went off to Wales, for the book launch of "Eden's Garden" by Juliet Greenwood.
Juliet provided several bottles of bubbly to toast her debut novel, which I've since read. It is about two women, Ann Treverick, who lives in the late 19th century, and modern-day Carys, who investigates the hundred-year-old mystery surrounding Ann's life and works. It has just about everything - mystery, history, lunacy, romance and gardening. I couldn't stop reading until all the threads came to their very satisfying conclusion.
Anyway - back to my day out. A queue rapidly formed for copies of the book since Juliet has been keeping all of us in her writer's group tantalized with snippets of info about her Welsh-set story, and her progress with it, for quite some time.
And then she finally let us cut the cake which she has also been advertising everywhere! For those of you who've been following the progress of this cake on facebook - it was chocolate orange sponge, with vanilla buttercream icing, and thoroughly delicious. The decorative flowers and butterflies were NOT edible though. Still, I suppose it would have been a shame to eath them, they were so pretty.
And finally, my thanks to Erika Woods for taking this photo of me, looking cheerful, and relatively sane and neat and tidy for once! I don't like having my photo taken, as a rule, because I generally end up looking...well, the opposite!
Also in pic - Johanna, a fellow writer and member of our little group.
Now - back to work. I'm starting on a draft of another new story...
I've watched lots of tv over the Christmas holidays, but perhaps the one thing that I enjoyed the most was the latest adaptation of R.L.Stevenson's Treasure Island.
I recorded it, along with several other films, hoping it would be the kind of thing that would appeal to all the various family members due round for visits at various times. I'd seen some clips, and expected it to have great scenery during the digging-up-the-treasure scenes. I really, really wanted to discover what Eddie Izzard would make of the one-legged pirate role. And I also hoped there would be a ripping adventure story.
What I hadn't expected was the complexity of the tale. I don't think I've ever watched one of the 50 or more adaptations that have been brought to the screen, (even though my children rave about the Muppets version) so I was just expecting a sort of swashbuckling yarn involving buried treasure, lots of pirates saying yo ho ho, and singing about 15 men on a dead men's chest. (Eddie Izzard only said, "aahaargh" once, and that was in mockery of the moment Dr Livesy found his mojo.)
What I got was a tale about a boy faced with a series of moral dilemmas. Because the pirates, whilst committed to a life of violence and crime, had a code of honour amongst themselves that a boy (and the viewer) could relate to. And those who represented law and order showed themselves up as venal and cowardly. So Jim Hawkins, the boy who'd originally found the treasure map, wavered throughout the story between the two camps. And though some people considered him a turncoat, what the viewer saw in this adaptation was the difficulty of deciding what is truly good and worthy. Who is a boy to trust? To whom should he give his loyalty? Jim Hawkins admired the good qualities evident amongst the pirates, and despised the moral weaknesses he saw displayed by the men he'd been brought up to trust and respect. It really was a coming of age tale. A boy growing up quickly during the course of an adventure, until at the end, he is the one who saves the day.
R.L Stevenson did something that must have been unique when he first published this tale in 1881. He aroused sympathy for the "baddies" whilst making the reader question the moral superiority of the "goodies". My entire family liked John Silver, even though we knew he was a thief and murderer who shamelessly manipulated all those around him for the sake of gain. The only unswervingly good character, so far as I could see, was Captain Smollet...he was like a rock. (Though I may have been somewhat biased by the fact he was played by Philip Glenister!)
By the end, we were all hoping that Long John Silver would somehow escape the harsh punishment that the law decreed should be meted out. And we all cheered when Jim helped him escape. After all the twists and turns, Treasure Island had the most satisfying of endings, with the good baddie escaping, and the bad goodie getting his just desserts. And if you don't understand what I'm talking about, I can heartily recommend either reading the book, or watching the latest adaptation.
No wonder the appeal of this tale has endured throughout the years, and it has become a classic. How I wish I could write like that!